It’s good to appreciate just how much cultural progress has been made since the turn of the millennium because make no mistake: things are markedly better than they were. Sexual harassment in the workplace, for instance, has gone from something to be discussed only in back rooms under non-disclosure agreements to issue companies are expected to combat.
But some problems linger and are still fought. And even if there were no specific imbalances, there would still be unique challenges for women in the business world, with its fundamental fabric being geared towards men’s inclinations. It’s 2020, and there’s never been a better time for a woman to pursue a career in business — but they must contend with these challenges:
Choosing role models
It’s very important for budding entrepreneurs to have role models to inspire them, and it’s totally natural to want a role model who’s like you in significant ways. Men have always had plenty of viable role models to choose from, but it’s generally been harder for women: the relative lack of women in prominent positions can leave them searching for the right kind of precedent.
This is starting to change, certainly, with more women in major roles and the online world increasingly filling up with interesting and inspirational stories about ambitious women (here’s one example), but it’s still tougher for women to select good role models. As the divide continues to narrow, though, this challenge should eventually go away.
Making a strong start in business requires resources, and that can be a real stumbling block for women because a lot of business investment capital is still hoarded by men from the old school: wary or even dismissive of women, and inclined to invest in people they identify with and corporate structures they recognize.
While there are now options like crowdsourcing to help women along, and starting a low-cost business as a solopreneur is also viable, things are still tough for women looking for investment — and they need to work even harder to nail their pitches.
Trying to have it all
When a woman wants to start a family, she doesn’t have the luxury of leaving a pregnant partner at home while she works. If she wants to maintain her career and have children, she must find a way to balance the two demands (loving her kids and her business), and it’s extremely difficult at the best of times.
Some improvements in the business world are helping with this, at least. More and more businesses are getting creches and installing facilities to help new mothers, as well as being more generous with parental leave (allowing new mothers to take time off without damaging their careers, or even to keep working while their partners take time off instead).
As noted regarding financing, there are still plenty of people in senior business roles who grew up in times when businesswomen were unfairly regarded with great skepticism. This makes it a minefield when you’re trying to network with influential people and forge valuable professional connections. You never know when you’ll encounter such a person.
You’ll also find that some people will be happy to ask inappropriate personal questions (about your plans to have children, for instance). It’s grating, but you get to choose how you handle it: object vociferously or let it slide in an effort to pick your battles.
Many women still grow up to feel that being ambitious and battling for professional success is somehow ill-fitting for a woman. They’re told that women should be conciliatory instead of combative, trying to get along instead of driving hard bargains and that there’s some kind of issue with women being high-flyers.
Accordingly, a big challenge that still faces women in business is being unapologetic. If you’ve fought past obstacles to become a success, you don’t need to say sorry for it. You can hold your head high and be proud of what you’ve achieved.
Conditions for women in the business world have come a long way, and they keep getting better, but there are still challenges facing them as we move through 2020. Whether you’re considering becoming an entrepreneur or already heading down that path, be wary of these challenges, but remember that you can overcome them.
About the Author: Rodney Laws is an e-commerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. Check out his reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io and you’ll find practical tips that you can use to build the best online store for your business. Connect with him on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.